Hong blames flop on high prices

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 February, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 February, 2005, 12:00am

Hong Kong Football Association chairman Martin Hong Po-kui admitted that tickets prices for Wednesday's Carlsberg Cup were 'too expensive' and that was the main reason why many spectators stayed away from the game.

Only 23,425 spectators - plus a few thousand from the executive suite level - watched what organisers had heralded as the 'biggest match' ever to be played in Hong Kong.

But the match was hardly a profitable venture as it earned just $16.24 million in gate receipts. The cost of bringing in Ronaldinho and company was estimated to be almost $12 million with match appearance fees, airfares (business class and first class) and accommodation being the main expenses incurred.

Organisers still had to pay a few million more for advertising, promotions and hiring of the stadium. Media reports suggest that the Brazil game turned out to be a money-losing exercise with Apple Daily reporting that organisers had lost almost $1 million.

Hong said the HKFA will review the situation and hinted that ticket prices for future games will not cost as much.

'It was a very good match but it was a pity that not many spectators watched it inside the stadium. It was a loss to the public because they missed out on a very good game. Ticket prices for the upper level were too expensive and too far away from the action,' said Hong.

'I don't think the reason why so few spectators turned out was because of the ticket distribution system. It was the correct thing to do (lot draw). If the upper level tickets had been priced from $500 to $800, it would have been better. I am sure more people would have watched the game,' he said.

'I also think it would have been better if the most expensive tickets had been limited to between 5,000 and 6,000 tickets.' Most of the tickets that remained unsold were the tickets on the lower upper level which cost a minimum of $1,200 up to $1,500.

While most of the $1,500 tickets on the lower main level were almost sold out, there were only a handful of tickets sold on the lower upper level.

The confirmed arrival of World Footballer of the Year Ronaldinho did little to boost flagging ticket sales. Real Madrid superstar striker Ronaldo had withdrawn from the match a day earlier because he didn't get permission from his club to play in Hong Kong.

All in all, that worked against the organisers with few spectators lining up to purchase tickets on the day of the match.

Hong said it was highly unlikely that ticket prices for July's exhibition match featuring Manchester United would match the Brazil game. He said the lot draw, introduced for the first time for the Brazil exhibition, would be abandoned for future matches.

The association had introduced a computer draw system for the Brazil game to avoid a repeat of the chaos seen before Hong Kong's match against Real Madrid in 2003.

But only a few thousand of the 7,250 people chosen from the 53,000 who registered by internet and telephone bought tickets.

'We'll probably abandon this distribution system in favour of the old system whereby people will line up to buy tickets on a first-come-first-served basis. We will also consider decreasing the number of public tickets to 20,000,' said Hong.